Keeping Your Cool, Part 4: Lower Body

Keeping Your Cool, Part 4: Lower Body

Earlier in this series, we discussed the basics of hot-weather motorcycling and the amazing effectiveness of some gear designed to exploit evaporative cooling of our necks, arms, and torsos. In Part Three, we focused on a shirt from LDComfort. Please read that review before this one, as I won’t be repeating important information about that shirt’s fabric here, even though the shorts utilize it, too.

LDComfort Riding Shorts

Discomfort is distracting, and riders need to be as free of distractions as possible to maximize safety. Therefore, consider LDComfort’s riding shorts—or underpants, if you like—to be safety equipment. Made of exactly the same highly durable Dryline material as the shirt described in Part Three, these shorts enhance comfort during lengthy rides in any weather. Such base layers must be worn next to the skin to be effective, so they replace your regular underwear. In addition to keeping your skin dry (extra important down low to avoid the dreaded “monkey butt”), they are constructed with no seams in the weight-bearing area of the buttocks. A single seam runs up the center of the backside and each leg has only one seam rotated forward from where you’d expect an inseam. What few other seams exist collect in front of the pelvis, where they won’t create any pressure points, and all are flat and flexible. The stretchy fabric ensures form-fitting freedom from wrinkles and folds, aided by leg openings positioned close to the knee and featuring soft-yet-grippy hems to keep them from sliding upward. A wide, robust waistband keeps the top edge in place. The waistband’s extra thickness keeps it from drying post-wash as swiftly as the rest of the garment, but body heat will complete the process within the first half-hour of wearing. The men’s version is outfitted with a “Roo Fly” (as in kangaroo pouch), which is basically a horizontal opening with a patch pocket sewn over it—much easier to use than the convoluted arrangement in conventional briefs, yet still plenty supportive. Women get a gusset instead.

Do not equate these with your Lycra bicycling shorts—especially if those have built-in padding! Lycra does not have the moisture transporting properties of Dryline, and that diaper-like pad is a serious liability on long rides, since it A) absorbs and holds sweat right where you least want it, B) requires additional seams where your weight rests, C) can hold detergent residue like a sponge, which irritates skin when reconstituted with moisture, and D) creates a layer of numb insulation, disconnecting you from your motorcycle. Also do not equate these with much more tight-fitting compression shorts, which are meant for relatively short-term, vigorous, high-mobility exercise and impose problematic restrictions on circulation during long-term use in a mostly fixed position. Finally, don’t use powders with these shorts; you’ll clog the fabric’s moisture transport channels, and—given Dryline’s effectiveness at keeping your skin moisture-free—you won’t need the powders, anyway.

Mesh riding pants rarely flow air anywhere near as much as mesh jackets, largely because legs and hips don’t catch much of the windblast. Zippered vents can be nearly useless on some models. With precious little airflow—and none in unventilated pants—it may seem pointless to wear shorts with an absorbent outer layer meant to deliver evaporative cooling. Well, first remember that layer also pulls moisture from the inner wicking layer so it doesn’t remain in contact with the skin, regardless of any evaporative cooling. Now consider this: if there’s a dearth of airflow in your pants, wouldn’t you want to make the absolute best use of what does exist? When wearing these shorts with mesh and ventilated riding pants, I was surprised to feel cooling effects I’d never experienced before. It wasn’t as impressive as what I felt with the LDComfort shirt under my jacket, but it was something instead of (nearly) nothing—a truly significant improvement. Even with unventilated pants, I was pleased to notice coolness where excess water from my shirt had made it down into my pants. It didn’t create a wet sensation there, which would have been most unwelcome, but instead yielded a nice cool feeling whenever and wherever a draft somehow found its way into my pants (which I’d never even noticed before wearing these shorts).

LDComfort also makes riding tights that provide full leg coverage, guarding against any chafing from your gear and extending the wicking and evaporative cooling benefits of Dryline over much more bodily geography. As I write this, I’m reminded of hot days when I could feel sweat running down my legs into my boots, even while wearing pants with mesh panels, and especially while riding aggressively off-road. I’ll be ordering a pair of the tights promptly. They’re priced at $72, while the shorts are $55 (same for both men’s and women’s). Thinner versions (in orange instead of black) for everyday use are available for $43; after all, when do you want to sit around with a moist butt, riding or not? Check LDComfort’s sizing chart after actually measuring your dimensions to ensure proper fit. Sizes range from XS to 4XL in smaller increments than you might expect.

Alpinestars Summer Socks

The famous Italian marque Alpinestars offers several options for high-temp riding. Although labeled as “touring” and “road racing” models, both are perfectly appropriate for any summer use on the street. Somewhat comically, Alpinestars claims these socks work especially well with their like-purposed riding boots, but they can obviously be worn just as well with any motorcycling footwear.

The Summer Touring socks feature a moisture-wicking Nostatex sole, along with areas of thin, extremely fine—almost sheer—mesh fabric to enhance breathability, along with ribbing that helps prevent bunching at the heel and around the ankle. Although described as “mid-calf” length, they extended most of the way up my calves; where they reach on you will depend on your particular dimensions. In comparison to the Road Racing model, these socks are quite plush—not as thick as motocross socks or cold-weather street socks, but with plenty of cushioning between your leg and boot shaft. Despite the presence of this slight bulk in some sections, these socks are genuinely comfortable in hot weather; you can feel a bit of air circulation (however much is allowed by your boots and pants), they don’t pack down with sweat, and they dry quickly after washing, or even simply taking off your boots. Available only in the black-and-white color scheme shown, MSRP is $26.95.

The mid-calf Summer Road Racing socks also sport Nostatex soles, but add CoolMax fabric for extra heat and moisture mitigation throughout the rest of their construction. A coarser mesh is used than what appears in the Touring socks, and similar attention is paid to keeping the material from bunching through the use of ribbed panels. While lacking the plushness of the Touring socks, I found these no less comfy in several different boots. However, depending on the design of your footwear and the sensitivity of your shins and calves, the Touring socks’ extra cushioning may be of value to you. Just know that it does seem to come at a slight cost in cooling efficiency, as the Road Racing socks were a bit better at shedding heat and moisture. They also dry even faster than the Touring socks and cost significantly less at $19.95. Note that Alpinestars makes a shorter over-the-ankle version of this sock, too, for the same price. Both styles only come in the black/red/white color scheme shown.

Although I haven’t tried every summer riding sock available on the market (e.g., LDComfort’s model), I have sampled many over the years. Very few provide any detectable advantage in hot weather, and those that actually shed a little heat are usually so thin they don’t feel good in boots (especially off-road footwear) and can’t transport sweat far enough from the skin’s surface to be meaningful. These socks from Alpinestars stand out as genuinely effective at both reducing heat and managing moisture, while still maintaining the necessary cushion between flesh and boot. Both the Summer Touring and Summer Road Racing socks are available in two (men’s) sizes: SM-MD (4.5-8.5) & LG-XL (9-14).

Note: Alpinestars appears to have discontinued these particular socks, but has replaced them with other models. Check their website for more info.